Respect in relationships was the top reason young adults were seeking help online and the second most sought-after topic for teenagers last year, according to new figures.

The national counselling service Kids Helpline’s website page on “respect in relationships” for 19-25-year-olds received 11,552 hits last year, and its page “all about respect”, for 13 to 18-year-olds, recorded 218,368 page views, up from 136,523 in 2019, behind the page about “bullying” at 314,037.

The second and third-most clicked topics for young adults were pages on “family relationships” and “impacts of pornography”, with 4,784 and 4,570 hits respectively.

The service also recorded a 38 per cent increase in first-time mental health contacts throughout 2020, and an 80 per cent increase in children aged 5-9 years old seeking support last year compared with 2019, revealed today in its 2020 Insights report.

Yourtown chief executive Tracy Adams said there had been a significant increase in the volume of children and young people seeking help in 2020, up by 20 per cent from 2019.

Tracy Adams from yourtown
Tracy Adams from yourtown said the number of young people contacting Kids Helpline reinforced the need for the service, which has been counselling and providing support for children and young people for 30 years.(

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“Young people in the 5 — 12 age group tell us they experience issues ranging from anxiety, problems sleeping, online addiction, anger issues or mood swings through to self-harm, eating disorders, depression and thoughts of suicide,” Ms Adams said.

Counsellors fear for safety of children, trigger emergency intervention

Kids Helpline counsellors last year triggered 2,783 duty of care interventions, where emergency services or other agencies are contacted when a young person is experiencing or is at imminent risk of harm.

The number of interventions rose by 48 per cent in 2020 compared with the year prior, and 37 per cent related to a suicide attempt, and 35 per cent relating to child abuse, a figure which rose by 62 per cent.

Ms Adams said young people had been particularly vulnerable throughout 2020, with many struggling with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Young people want better consent education

This year, an online petition to bring about better sexual consent education in schools, launched by former Sydney private school Kambala student Chanel Contos, has more than 38,000 signatories and received more than 3,700 testimonies of sexual harassment and assault.

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Chanel Contos says she launched the petition because she was sick of constantly hearing her friends’ experiences of sexual abuse.(

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The National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (NAPCAN)’s respectful relationships education national manager Kristy Styles said young people “really want to know where the line is drawn between respectful and disrespectful in relationships.”

“We often hear in school or different programs where they learn about what is OK or not OK but there’s not many programs that explore what’s on the line or near the line,” she said.

“More broadly there’s an assumption that consent is that you just keep going until you get a no, but it actually needs to be something that is sought out.”

Queensland Family and Child Commission Principal Commissioner Cheryl Vardon said young people were looking for information and guidance about what respectful relationships looked like.

“The increased use and reliance on digital platforms has contributed to confusion or unrealistic expectations for young people, whether it be body image, identity crisis or what healthy relationships look like and it comes as no surprise that young people are seeking clarity around relationships,” she said.

Consent education must be mandatory, commence earlier

Ms Styles said federal and state governments needed to ensure consent education was mandatory in schools and commences in primary school.

Earlier this month, the Queensland government announced it would review how sexual consent education was taught in state and non-government schools across the state.

Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge this month announced the Federal Government would roll out new consent and respectful relationships teaching material through its Respect Matters program.

Service helps millions of children and young people

It comes as Kids Helpline celebrates its 30-year anniversary today having responded to 8.4 million calls for help via telephone and online for support since first taking a call on March 25, 1991.

Ms Adams said over the 30 years, the top three reasons children and young people sought counselling was for concerns around mental health, emotional wellbeing, and family relationships.

She added, the service has provided 500,000 counselling sessions related to mental or emotional health, and more than 440,000 sessions about family relationships.

“The complexity of issues reported to Kids Helpline over the past 30 years has grown substantially, as has the number of children and young people using the service in an ongoing way.”